Sometimes parish and diocesan leaders have different definitions and views. One approach is to have the Mission define the core purpose and the Vision describe what is to be created within 3 - 5 years in living out that core purpose. Both need the ownership of the bishop or pastor, either through participation in authorship, or public affirmation of what exists when assignments result in shifts in pastoral leadership. What's your experience in what works well?

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Dennis I have counseled Non Profits for close to 30 years on this very important difference.  A Mission Statement is sort of like your Elevator Speech, it tells everyone in 2-3 sentences what exactly your mission is (Save the Whales, Stop Global Warming etc.)  The vision statement is typically much longer and describes the "vision" of your organization, ie. why the world will be a better place if others join in to help you achieve your mission,  The vision statement often has Utopian values to it whereas the mission statement always has practical values,

This is an interesting approach and a very helpful distinction. 

I've tended to build a vision for the future into the present mission statement through asking questions like "What type of presence do we seek to become in the community?"  A response might be that the parish seeks to help people establish and nurture a relationship with Jesus Christ and carry forth His mission in the world.  This statement has a present and future dimension.  It indicates the type of parish they want to be, and perhaps are beginning to be, but as of now are not. 

I do think that a vision of a desired future helps pull a parish forward.

What do others think?


Although not very experienced in working with faith-based groups, my practice has been to link the two with statements like "Given this agreed upon mission, what would you like me to be able to see if I revisit you in 2 years? in 5 years?" After we build that vision, we identify barriers and enhancers to achieivng that vision and plan accordingly.

The questions which frame the visioning work of a parish or group are keys to the igniting of imagination as well as focusing for the conversations. If the Mission statement defines the core purpose with distinction of identity for the parish, diocese or group, then the vision is what is to be created, experienced,  lived in carrying out that purpose in the near term. 3 - 4 year time frames are helpful because they relate to the current participants and leadership and work well if timed tot he terms of service of a board, council or pastoral leadership. I have found that several questions for visioning help guide the work. A question similar to David's creates external-focused, service-based conversations.The approach Harry describes would guide reflection and conversation which is of conviction and attraction. John's questions guide the imagining of more tangible and experience-based imagining. Several questions such as all three of these can frame broad, compelling and interdependent reflections, responses and discussions leading to the development of clear vision statements for the parish or group.

I have for some time shared the concern that others have expressed as well: mission statements can be helpful, but can also be a waste of time. Both are true, depending on the process. What is clear is that some groups such as parishes and dicoese' see producing mission statements as what i call a "terminal activity." once the statement is done that gets checked off and the mission is put back on the shelf for a few years. I suspect, however, that the mission of our Church is more important than that terminal activity indicates. We Catholics are very good at "breaking open" the Word. Why not do what we are very good at with regard to the mission of the Church? Why not use the very same reflective, discerning and prayerful means for coming to understand the mission of the church. You would never suggest that one reviews scripture only once every five years and that when it is done the scriptures get put on a shelf! no! so why not integrate breaking open the mission of the Church into the ongoing life of the parish or diocese? Note that I am speaking about the mission of the Church, not of the parish or of the dicoese. I have seen so much energy being put into the mission of a parish or diocese when the Church universal has already articulated the mission of every parish and dicoese. Why mess with it? In fact, to do so may actually be counterproductive to the full experience of communio and of the understanding of the Church itslef. There is one Church, not many independent parishes, we call the "local Church." Our point of unity is Christ and his mission. My point: As Catholics we should perhaps put more energy into breaking open the Mission of the Church universal than into writing a statement that is aligned with, but is not, the mission of the Church given by Christ. Related to that what parishes may find more helpful is to spend their energy breaking pen the mission of the Church universal and then doing what Dennis is suggesting of articulating a vision of what that mission looks like in a particular place for the next 3 to 4 years. Mission statements by themselves are not evil or Wrong, they are just perhaps a tired and often misunderstood strategy for focusing the parish or diocese. I hpe this stimulates some creative thinking!

In our parish we are struggling with this issue of mission and vision. We have a well thought out mission statement and have to provide the Diocese a 3-5 year strategic plan in the new few months. A major concern that all the members of leadership team express is our lack of success in getting new people to step forward and assume the activities that are needed to extend the mission.

Between work commitments, family commitments our core volunteers are over burdened and are getting tired.

It is difficult to extend the mission when we don't have the human resources to implement the mission.

We have been successful in increasing our Lectors and EM's Ministries but anything that requires more time commitment is met with reluctance and hesitation. It is not for a lack of trying by the pastor and the very dedicated volunteers who approach and invite people to join. We have held, " church job fair" to present various committees that we have. We held the event in the church immediately after all Masses. It was not as successful as we hoped and we will hold another at the beginning  of the fall season.

As a member of the parish leadership team I know that we have been focused on maintenance and reversal of a steady decline of Mass attendance. In these two area we have had success in increasing the numbers and are working towards a plan to address some much needed building issues. We used the theme of stewardship to change the dialogue of our congregation from one of apathetic acceptance that we were going to be merged with another parish to one where we are not merging or closing and we are now growing.

We just haven't been able to get new people to step forward and assume some of the activities that help do the mission. Do we need to refocus our message? Focus on one or two missions and make them better? 

My real question is, " how do we create a living faith community when there are so many other distractions pulling at us?"

In working with parishes with very similar challenges, some consistent themes, questions and opportunities emerge:

1. Focus first on high quality Liturgies with great welcoming, music and preaching. The Liturgy is the foundation of any vibrant Catholic community and Pastoral Plan. Be diligent in your pursuit of identifying what quality means for you and honest about the strengths and weaknesses of welcoming, music and preaching.

2. Differentiate between three types of ministry a. Core and canonical, b. secondary and important, c. outreach and invitational / social

3. Focus on delivery of the core and canonical ministries first through staff, committees and leadership. Add level b and c ministries only to the extent that the parishioners are called and committed to make it happen. If there is little energy for this, go back to level a. ministries and improve quality and engagement there.

4. Occasional drop ministries and programs with little engagement and ownership. You will find out quickly if a real and relevant pastoral need is there

5. Do not spend all of revenue in the budget. Put maintenance of facilities in the budget. and save a little every year.

6. A Pastoral Plan . . .

  • Asks us -  What does God desire for and of us?
  • Is a calling forth of what is in and of the faith community
  • Is a description of a relationship between people regarding who they are, what is their shared mission, their shared vision and pastoral needs and programs, as well as how they intend to move forward
  • Needs to be "Realistic and Reasonable yet Challenging and Courageous while Affirming and Inspiring"

Hope this is of interest and useful for you

It is and thank you.  I was reading an article in USA Today by Cathy Lynn Grossman. She is the paper's religion, faith and spirituality reporter. The headline :

Number of religious 'Nones' is at a high. This is the opening paragraph:

Unbelief is on the uptick. People who check "none" for their religious affiliation are now nearly 1 in 5 Americans (19 percent), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The last paragraph cites one demographic segment that we as a parish as missing, "young, often single, highly educated". I was thinking that if a management consultant gave our parish a list of actions  to target this group what would they be?
We have a FaceBook page for the parish and we add one to two people a week to our friends. What material should we consider using to reach this target group with that tool?

We do not have a youth ministry group at all in our parish. We have a Theology on Tap program but we are not reaching the intended audience.

We have been seeing an increase in attendance at the 7:00pm Sunday Mass. The numbers have been a source of optimism for us at the Pastoral Council. When I read of the 19 percent who consider themselves "nones" I am searching for ways that can as a local parish can target this segment.

I should add  a personal note that I have five nieces and nephews who certainly are part of the 19 percent and have made it clear, " I don't go".


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